Oversight and Financial Accountability of the EU Budget: Analytical Essay

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Conclusion and Recommendations

The primary objective of this research is to analyse how the EP oversight role in the EU budget discharge enhances accountability. After assessing the 2017 EU budget discharge, a number of conclusions have been drawn; these conclusions are rooted on two ends; the accountability elements and the oversight tools employed by the EP in executing the 2017 budget discharge procedure. A mixture of both theoretical and empirical findings.

Overall, ex-post oversight of the budget allows parliaments to hold the executive accountable for the use of public resources and promote improvements in their management. Financial accountability is enhanced by the alignment of parliament’s legal powers, oversight tools and EP mobilization of all EU institutions, their roles and contributionsto the ex-post budget evaluation; as keys to the promotion of checks and balances. The budget discharge procedure itself serves as an independent accountability mechanism; a determinant of EU financial accountability; and a distinguished stand-alone parliamentary oversight tool; as it enables the EP to effectively oversee, scrutinise, supervise and control the implementation and management of EU budget. The 2017 discharge entails that the EP has successfully exercised its control over EU budget.

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The 2017 discharge procedure by the EP providesa platform for the researcher to mirror through trends of past budget discharges carried out by the EP as well as reflecting on the future discharges. In the record of EP discharges so far, the current discharge (2017) presents a considerable decrease in the levels of errors. This is highly reflected in the ECA’s audit report which shows a ‘clean opinion’ regarding the EU accounts as the expenditure error levels have declined in 2017; ranking as the lowest as compared to all other years. Regarding revenue, no error was detected. All policy departments have implemented their specific budget allocations correctly and with great success in accounting for revenues and expenditures. It is with no doubt that such positive developments are primarily triggered by more viable resolutions given by the EP whenever they issue a decision for each discharge year as well as by the EP (mainly CONT)’s ability to issue follow up on the previous discharges to verify that implementation for the particular year has taken into consideration the previous observations and recommendations into practice. Also, cooperation, and checks and balances between various MEPs committees enable the EP to fully exercise its budget oversight role. The Commission have shown high levels of compliance by taking heed of the EP requests for information and a call by EP on additional information (responding to questions posed by CONT – hearings). Taking from the 2017 results of discharge, one would conclude that, the present state of EU financial accountability is good and that the EP is doing well in its budget oversight performance.

The oversight tools mostly used by the EP in 2017 budget discharge include the committee system, questions, debate, CONT hearings and plenary hearings and vote in Plenary. In requesting for information, the EP utilized the Committee system and questions. In the discussion phase, the EP employed hearings in Parliament and debates in CONT and in Plenary. The EP’s multi- streams scrutiny tools make it possible for the EP to extricate political oversight from administrative issues; thus, its function becomes more relevant in guaranteeing accountability.

Results show that, theCommittee system within the EP exists as an essential aggregate oversight instrumentused in all the phases of discharge (information, discussion and consequence phases. These committees’ offers an administrative input revealed in MEPs specialized committees in different policy departments. Henceforth, the interaction between the EP and ECA plays a significant role in enhancing EU budget accountability, and in strengthening EP’s capacity to deliver its oversight function. Findings in the 2017 discharge show that, the committee arena is the key driver to EP-initiated accountability; with the CONT playing a leading role. Different Standing committees within the EP Plenary provide checks and balances for each other by giving opinions, exchanging views, voting, debating and making amendments.

Regarding the information element, the audit report by ECA is the most powerful document that the EP uses in determining the EC position in accounting for EU finances and budget implementation. The EP work closely with ECA. The technical input by ECA and other internal audit institutions is a valuable tool that is often utilized by the EP when carrying out 2017 budget discharge.

Discussions in the form of hearing procedures and parliamentary debates were the powerful tools by the EP Committees as they demonstrated their oversight capacity in requesting for further clarification and justification from the executive (hearings); as well as coordination between committees in which provision of checks and balances is inevitable through debates. This proves that EP worked independently.

Consequential, the EP granted discharge of the EU budget to the EC and other 6 bodies, after observing EU ‘Consolidated Accounts’ and ECA audit opinion; debates and hearings and questioning the Commissioners; ‘Council recommendation’, and vote in parliament. EP demonstrated its full oversight capacity by giving their opinions and recommendations for future budget, most importantly the next financial framework. The EP through its responsible Budget Control Committee; the CONT emphasised more on the ‘enhanced budgetary performance information’ in the budget; increased participation of all EP committees; a more transparent and streamlined Member States financial accounting mechanisms to avoid further drawbacks; and enhanced cooperation among all MEPs committees.

However, apart from a more positive view in EU budget accountability and effective EP oversight role on the 2017 discharge, some shortcomings has been observed. Errors have been identified in some Member States financial accounts. ECA identified errors that were not identified by National Internal Auditors. This lagging behind in Member States compromises the entire EU budget performance as actual implementation is primarily the duty of EU Member Countries, with almost 75% EU funds in the hands of states.

Concerning the problem identified in 2017 budget implementation; which is the lagging behind of Member States in terms of budget implementation; the blame was laid to indirect involvement of Member States in budget implementation. The ultimate implementation responsibility lies in the hands of the EC; thus, the EP held the EC responsible not the Member States. It is therefore, recommended that the EP has to partly shift the implementation responsibility directly to the Member States and also to introduce tight measures against non-compliers and Member States’ annual financial statements (EU funds) has to be directly audited by independent external auditors. Also the EP could possibly oversee and carryout a discharge function for each Member State independently, as a way of enhancing compliance by Member States.

The 2017 budget discharge by the EP, and its positive developments would be a lesson to the Member States governments,parliaments, and internal auditors, for them to draw lessons from the EP, EC and ECA; in order to enhance financial accountability in their respective national budgets. Since there is a lagging behind in Member States, it could be possible that most of these democracies are not doing well in terms of their own national budgets implementation, oversight and discharge.

For improvement of oversight and financial accountability of the EU budget, there is need for strengthening cooperation between the EP and Member States parliaments and Internal Auditors. This would improve the EP’s oversight capacityand would enable easier detection of shortcomings in budget implementation and financial accounts, especially, Member States accounts. These parliaments and auditors could also offer supplementary resolutions and recommendations, to redress the shortcomings and errors identified in order to improve budget scrutiny, budget discharge effectiveness and soundmanagement of public funds.

A number of limitations have been encountered in developing this thesis. Firstly, there is data limitation. Because of time, the researcher could not collect as much data as intended; as such, this thesis relies onlyon content analysisand not on interviews and survey questions. It would be best if the researcher had a chance to interview MEPs, EC officials, members of ECA and some Member States citizens as they would give their view points based on their experiences and this allows for the verification of the information provided in the EP website. This is important since documents may sometimes provide biased opinion of the writer and only the good of the organization. However, the use of data from the EP official website produces more likely authentic data since the website is not private but public and it is subject to public scrutiny.

Secondly, focusing on one discharge year enables good data presentation since it is more focused and directed to only 2017 discharge making it manageable, however, it limits the analysis of the data and it becomes more difficult to draw conclusions for only 2017 discharge year.

Thirdly, developing more specific measures of accountability proved to be difficult. Accountability concept is much easier to conceptualize than to operationalize due to a wide array of existing theoretical literature on the subject than on the actual measurement. However, merging common accountability elements with oversight tools make it possible to successfully measure accountability.

Alternatively, the limitations encountered reflect into the expansion of the study. As the value of this thesis is clearly to set a concrete foundation into the emerging future studies in the similar subject and case. The expectation would be of a more integrated researchwhich allows for a deep understanding of the EP oversight and accountability in the budget discharge case. Hence, amore comprehensive and in-depth longitudinal comparative EP discharge analysis for several years, probably from 2013- 2018 discharges would be important and interesting to analyse the changing trends of EP discharge function in different years and to see if there is a variation in these years and developments that came as a result.

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Oversight and Financial Accountability of the EU Budget: Analytical Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/oversight-and-financial-accountability-of-the-eu-budget-analytical-essay/
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